TRIVIUM Frontman: DAVID DRAIMAN Is 'The Most Hands-On Producer We've Ever Worked With'

On March 19, Phil Freeman of RoadrunnerRecords.com recently conducted an interview with guitarist/vocalist Matt Heafy of Florida metallers TRIVIUM. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

RoadrunnerRecords.com: How was the decision made to have David Draiman [of DISTURBED and DEVICE] produce the new [TRIVIUM] record?

Heafy: I'll backtrack and I'll give you the whole story. When DISTURBED did their first tour ever, I was like 16 or 17 years old. It was DANZIG headlining, SIX FEET UNDER direct support and DISTURBED opening. That was the first time I ever saw DISTURBED. Throughout the years…in 2005, we finished our show in Chicago — we were supporting DANZIG, we were second out of five for the DANZIG/KATAKLYSM tour, and David Draiman just happened to be at the show. He came up and was like, "Hey, you guys are awesome, I've been a fan of you guys for a while," and we were really blown away that the guy from DISTURBED liked our band. So that was it — it was kind of this quick little meeting. But we'd meet every other year or so at a random show, and we'd kind of keep in touch. One day I remember online I saw a picture of one of our fans, wearing a TRIVIUM shirt, posing with David Draiman, and Draiman was wearing a TRIVIUM hoodie. I was, like, "This is fucking awesome! He's an actual fan." So we became friends and started bumping into each other every once in a while, and he brought us and AS I LAY DYING out on their headlining tour of Australia and New Zealand. From there, we were able to hang a little bit more, and then we did Mayhem together. On Mayhem, I passed him a copy of "In Waves", saying "Hey, man, thanks for all the support over the years, I hope you dig our new record." Last date of the tour, he pops in and wants to talk to me, and he tells me that never before has he felt we were ready to make the jump, before now. And when he heard "In Waves", he knew that TRIVIUM was ready to make the leap. That he's always been a big fan, but when he heard the songs and the songwriting power that was "In Waves", he wanted to work with us. And he said, If you want to work with me, I would love to work with you. And naturally we were like, "Yeah, we'd love to." We knew he worked with DISTURBED production-wise from seeing it in the liner notes, but we never really knew what he did, until one day he had us at the studio and we checked out the DEVICE stuff. And as soon as I heard it, I was like, All right, now I know who's been doing this — not to take anything away from DISTURBED, because I know it takes those four dudes to make it what it is, but when I heard the ingredients that I really loved as a singer and a songwriter and a melody writer in the stuff that David was doing with DEVICE, I was, like, "OK, I see that the ingredients are in this that I loved from DISTURBED, so David is definitely a producer. After we heard that, we were, like, "Yeah, we've gotta work together. So we passed demos to each other — it might have been over a year. We started writing the demos before "In Waves" even came out, which we always seem to do, not because we have to but just because we feel inspired. So we'd pass him batches of demos, he'd pass us notes back, and we'd keep a bible. And we'd keep doing that throughout the touring cycle. And not doing it in a regimented way or anything, just when we felt like it was a good time to work, we'd work and send it to him, and he would give us great critiques, and the songs kept getting better and better from a distance. Finally we built up a schedule and moved in with him for about two months. And the record was made, and now we're back home.

RoadrunnerRecords.com: What kind of producer was he?

Heafy: He was the most hands-on producer we've ever worked with. And we've worked with some amazing people. I mean, Jason Suecof and TRIVIUM got their start working together. We've done so many records together that I think we can't do any more; we've learned everything we could possibly learn from each other. We were able to work with Nick Raskulinecz on "Shogun", who we learned a lot from; we were able to work with one of our heroes of metal production and engineering, Colin Richardson, on "In Waves", which went great. And everyone's always been fairly hands-on with us, saying, Hey, we want to do this together. But David was even more hands-on, in a great way. We looked at it as a partnership, as all of us working together to make the best songs possible. And with David, he had input on everything. What was amazing was he never wanted to cross the line — he never wanted to change who we were. That was a big thing he said early on, "I want this to still very much be TRIVIUM, but we're gonna take it to the next level." He had things from — not lyrical changes, but lyrical suggestions — ways to help further the point of what the song was. That was something I'd never had before; I'd never had a producer say, "What are you saying in this song?" And when he first asked me that, I gave him the same answer I was giving for interviews for all of "In Waves", which is "Well, this is interpretable," and he was like "Yeah, yeah, that's fine," but he felt like it should go this way or that way, and I've never had that before, someone who was able to help me look at what the point of the song was and help me narrow down the message I was trying to convey. We worked on vocals – he helped me gain another four to six notes in my upper vocal range, which is something I never thought was possible. He was telling me that he really wants me to get further vocal training, which is something I want to do when I get up to New York – I'm gonna get some vocal lessons with his vocal coach, Melissa Cross. He was really pushing it, saying "You have no idea what you're really capable of." It was really cool to hear that this late in my career. I mean, this is record six. I thought I was born with a vocal range and that's all it was, but he said no, that's not true. He taught me how to stand, how to breathe right, how to sing, just so much. He helped me break down everything I've learned and rebuild it back up during the pre-production sessions. The pre-production was something we've never seen before. Last record, our pre-production was one day because we were so prepared when we came in, because we'd been demoing our songs for about eight months. This time, when we were going in to work with David, he said, "I don't want you guys to know the material too well." We actually didn't rehearse at all as a band for any of our new stuff; we wrote it all on our computers, had everyone learn the riffs, and he said the point was he wanted us malleable, so that when he worked with us as a band, we weren't suffering from demo-itis. That's a very real term that we've all had to deal with before where we become attached to something in the demo form, because we got so used to it. He didn't want that to happen, so he didn't allow it to happen by helping us not to know the stuff too well. This pre-production was two weeks, six days a week, 12 hours a day, which is the most brutal pre-production I've ever done in my life. We could have gone into it incredibly prepared like we did with "In Waves", but with that malleable thing, he broke down each song — we'd work maybe a song a day, once we got into the groove of things. We worked on everything, from drums – so Nick [Augusto] would have a pattern where he's playing at 10, playing all straight double bass with all of his power and all of his ability, David would say, "No, no, pull out these notes here, these notes here off this instrument, don't do this on this instrument," and all of a sudden we had this incredible groove part, unlike anything we'd ever had before. He helped make the guitar parts better, because we had stuff we were repeating four to eight or even 16 times, and he'd say, "Why does it keep repeating?" We'd say well, that's what we're doing, but he'd change it so every time the riff happens, it progresses a little further, and that was something we've never done before — we've never had something where a riff only plays for four bars or only plays one time and then keeps progressing. He helped with every instrument, every song, helping create melodies — his ability to create melody is one of the most staggering things I've ever seen. If someone can picture in their head a virtuoso guitar player stepping up to play a song and improvising right on the spot, something really technical and really flashy, well, David can hear a song or a chord progression or a bass melody one time, and after hearing it once, he can come up with amazing melodies to go on top of it, and each time he works with it, within two minutes of hearing it for the first time, he can create incredible hooks on top of it. I've never seen that before. It was mind-blowing to see his ability for melody construction on the spot.

Read the entire interview from RoadrunnerRecords.com.

Pictured below: TRIVIUM at studio in Austin with David Draiman

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